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Mind map

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A mind map or mindmap is a multicoloured and image centered radial diagram that represents semantic or other connections between portions of learned material. For example, it can graphically illustrate the structure of government institutions in a state. Once a mind map is well-structured and well-established, it can be subject to review (e.g. with spaced repetition). The uniform graphic formulation of the semantic structure of knowledge may help reconsolidation of memories. This can make memories more stable and long lasting and may increase motivation to work on a task.

Example of a (mostly textual) mindmap
Example of a (mostly textual) mindmap


The mind map concept was originated by a British popular psychology author, Tony Buzan. He claimed the idea started forming as he wrote An Encyclopedia of the Brain and Its Use in 1971. He argues that 'traditional' articles rely on the reader to scan left to right and top to bottom, whilst what actually happens is that the brain will scan the entire page in a non-linear fashion. He also uses popular assumptions about the cerebral hemispheres in order to promote the exclusive use of mind mapping over other forms of note making.

The use of the term "Mind Maps" is trade-marked by The Buzan Organisation, Ltd. in the UK [1] and the USA [2], though the trade-mark does not appear in the records of the Canadian Intellectual Property Office [3].

The structure of a mind map has a similar but simplified radial structure compared to that of the earlier original concept map, which was developed by learning experts in the 1960s.

Uses of mind maps

The mind map is purported to have many applications in personal, family, educational, and business situations. Possibilities include note-taking, a modified variant of brainstorming (ideas are judged and put into an organized structure as opposed to the classical brainstorming where judgement is reserved for later stages), summarizing, revising and general clarifying of thoughts. For example, one could listen to a lecture and take down notes using mind maps for the most important points or keywords. One can also use mind maps as a mnemonic technique or to sort out a complicated idea. Mind maps can also be created collaboratively.

Many around the world, including managers and students, have said that they find the techniques of mind mapping to be useful, being better able to retain information and ideas than by using traditional 'linear' note taking methods.

Mindmaps can be drawn by hand, either as 'rough notes', for example, during a lecture or meeting, or can be more sophisticated in quality. Examples of both are illustrated. There are also a number of software packages available for producing mind maps (see below).

Mind mapping guidelines

These are the foundation structures of a Mind Map, although these are open to free interpretation by the individual:

  1. Start in the centre with an image of the topic, using at least 3 colours.
  2. Use images, symbols, codes and dimensions throughout your Mind Map.
  3. Select key words and print using upper or lower case letters.
  4. Each word word/image must be alone and sitting on its own line.
  5. The lines must be connected, starting from the central image. The central lines are thicker, organic and flowing, becoming thinner as they radiate out from the centre.
  6. Make the lines the same length as the word/image.
  7. Use colours – your own code – throughout the Mind Map.
  8. Develop your own personal style of Mind Mapping.
  9. Use emphasis and show associations in your Mind Map.
  10. Keep the Mind Map clear by using Radiant hierarchy, numerical order or outlines to embrace your branches.

Scholarly research on mind mapping

Buzan (1991) claims that the mind map is a vastly superior note taking method because it does not lead to the alleged "semi-hypnotic trance" state induced by the other note forms. Buzan also claims that the mind map utilizes the full range of left and right human cortical skills, balances the brain, taps into the 99% of your unused mental potential, and taps into your intuition (which he calls "superlogic"). However, there has been research conducted on the technique which suggests that such claims may actually be marketing hype based on urban myths about the brain.

There are benefits to be gained by summarizing and organizing knowledge using various graphic organizers. However, Farrand, Hussain, and Hennessy (2002) suggested that the mind map technique had a limited impact on learning (a small increase, and only in memory of short texts) and a significant decrease in motivation compared to preferred methods of note taking and idea generation techniques. They found that learners preferred to use other methods because mind mapping can be confusing when reviewed, they tended not to use multi-color notes, and the better students tended to use a wide variety of strategies rather than a single technique. Indeed, Pressley, VanEtten, Yokoi, Freebern, and VanMeter (1998) found that learners tended to learn far better by focusing on the content of learning material rather than worrying over any one particular form of note making. To date, there is no evidence that mind mapping will balance or make better use of each cerebral hemisphere in comparison with any other mental activity.


Software ranging from freeware to high-level commercial applications or free software (open source) have implemented mind mapping.

These tools can be used effectively to organise large amounts of information, combining spatial organisation, dynamic hierarchical structuring and node folding.

See also


  • Buzan, T. (1991). The Mind Map Book . New York: Penguin.
  • Farrand P, Hussain F, Hennessy E. Med Educ. (2002) "The efficacy of the 'mind map' study technique". May;36(5):426-31.
  • Pressley, M., VanEtten, S., Yokoi, L., Freebern, G., & VanMeter, P. (1998). "The metacognition of college studentship: A grounded theory approach". In: D. J. Hacker, J. Dunlosky, & A. C. Graesser (Eds.), Metacognition in Theory and Practice (pp. 347-367). Mahwah NJ: Erlbaum.

External links

Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04